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Afghans to World: Send the Checks

Aid: Most of the $4.5 billion pledged has yet to arrive. Officials seek funds for the army, police and infrastructure.


KABUL, Afghanistan — Interim Prime Minister Hamid Karzai on Wednesday called on the world community to make good on promises to help rebuild his country, saying Afghans' expectations are very high but almost nothing has been delivered.

In the first meeting on how to implement pledges of $4.5 billion in assistance, Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. envoy to Afghanistan, called for international donors to fund the country's police and army.

That is the only way, Brahimi said, to guarantee security outside Kabul, the capital, and lead Afghanistan toward peace and stability.

Karzai called for big infrastructure projects, in particular roads, to make the country economically viable and secure.

The conference was held here amid growing calls from Afghan officials for access to the aid, promised in Tokyo in January.

The issue is critical for Karzai, whose leadership is supported by the United States. Unless the money flows soon, and the population perceives him as a powerful leader, Karzai risks losing out in a loya jirga--or grand council--to be held in June to elect a transitional leader and government.

Brahimi's call on the world community to help pay for a national army and viable police force outside Kabul follows a series of security scares in Afghanistan: a bomb attack in Jalalabad two days before, apparently aimed at assassinating Defense Minister Mohammed Qassim Fahim, and several incidents in which international forces have been fired on in Kabul.

Nine suspects have been arrested in the bombing and the attacks on the peacekeepers, officials said Wednesday.

"We must acknowledge that, unorthodox as it might be to fund an army and a police force, the establishment of a well-trained, properly equipped national security force is an absolute priority right now," Brahimi said.

"It is the only way to bring about the security for which the people of Afghanistan yearn and which is indispensable if this country is to be reconstructed."

Security is a problem in most of Afghanistan, Brahimi said. Although the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, and the Kabul police run patrols day and night in the capital, warlords and their militias largely still reign elsewhere.

"Most Afghans have not yet seen the dividends of peace," said Brahimi, reminding the international community that the six-month term of Karzai's government will soon be up.

"The time has come for the international community to make good on its promises made in Tokyo and write out its checks," he urged.

Karzai said his country needs development projects that would provide jobs, boost trade and help the economy.

He warned the international community not to make the mistake of neglecting the majority of Afghanistan's people, who live in remote villages.

"The reconstruction of roads is neglected, but when we speak to our donor countries, no one is interested," he said.

The government also needs international help in paying the salaries of public servants, teachers and doctors who haven't received wages in months, Karzai said.

He also called for serious international support to help Afghanistan stop opium production.

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